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Olathe Student Confirmed With Case Of Tuberculosis

An Olathe high school student has contracted tuberculosis and is being treated, state and local health officials said Wednesday.

The student, who was not identified, attends Olathe Northwest High School. Health officials said in a news release that the student was complying with isolation procedures.

TB is caused by a bacterium that usually attacks the lungs but can attack any part of the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If not properly treated over six to nine months with antibiotics, it can be fatal.

Health officials said that a forum would be held for Olathe Northwest students and parents on March 10 at 5:30 in the Olathe Northwest High School commons at 21300 College Blvd. They said state and county health experts will be on hand to present facts about TB and answer questions.

TB is spread through the air via coughing, sneezing, speaking or singing, according to the CDC. Symptoms include a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum, weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever and sweating at night.

Johnson County has had one other case of TB diagnosed this year, according to Sara Belfry, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). Last year, she said, there were 40 cases diagnosed statewide and in 2013 there were 36 cases statewide.

Phil Griffin, TB controller at KDHE, said more than 300 individuals may have been exposed “but that’s a variety of ranges from low to medium risk.”

“We’re kind of casting the net wide because it is a school setting, and we want to make sure we capture every opportunity to assure that everyone is kept safe,” he said.

Griffin said the student’s case was confirmed within the last 24 hours and the student was doing “fine.” He was unable to provide additional information due to medical privacy laws.

Kansas health regulations require the student to be kept in isolation for at least two weeks, “plus showing signs in symptom improvement plus being negative on the infectious scale – we’re looking at smears,” Griffin said.

Editor's note: This story was updated with new information from health officials. 

Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR.

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